It’s a necessary evil … carbon fiber, that is. It’s strong, looks amazing and gives our machines the ultimate in rigidity, but it also chews through wire insulation if not prepped properly. It’s super easy to file and seal your frame or to simply cover it with fuel line or some other soft-ish material to protect those vital wires from wearing thin. Check out the video for all you need to know and be sure to hit us up on Facebook.
The Star Wars Imperial Aratech 74-Z Speeder Bike drone is a must have for any fan of the movies, whether you fly drones or not. The scale details are absolutely amazing and the flight performance is on par with drones from reputable hobby suppliers that are fully rebuild-able and much more expensive. Not only that, but this drone features sensors for altitude hold capabilities indoors or out and is pretty darn quick in experienced hands.
Those who are more than familiar with the franchise are also well familiar with the Aratech 74-Z Speeder Bike. While in the movies, it didn’t make an appearance until Return of the Jedi, it was actually featured in many of the earlier “episodes” before the recent prequel releases. The staple reserve of the Imperial forces for recon and ground patrol, the 74-Z is fast, nimble and deadly in the right hands and now you can be blasting past rows of trees and vines on your own Speeder Bike drone thanks to Spin Master and Air Hogs.
NEED TO KNOW:
MANUFACTURER: Spin Master/Air Hogs
DISTRIBUTOR: Various retail and online sources
TYPE: Scale RTF drone
WEIGHT: 3 oz (85g)
FLIGHT CONTROLLER: Integrated board
ESCS: Integrated board
PROPS: 4.75 in.
BATTERY: 450mAh 1S LiPo
FLIGHT TIME: 4-6 minutes
The Speeder Bike package contains everything you need to get into the air and performing your own chase scenes on the surface of Endor. The manufacturer includes the drone itself, the radio/charger, a small USB cord and manual.
The detail on the Speeder Bike drone from Air Hogs is incredible. From the armaments and communications arrays on the bike itself, to the foam molded Scout Trooper that looks like the real thing, this drone looks amazing whether in the air or perched on a display shelf.
Priced in most locations at just under 40 bucks, the Speeder Bike Drone is a pretty decent bang for your buck. You get a fairly large machine, completely ready to fly and it’s fully licensed by Disney for the Star Wars name.
Height Lock … in such an inexpensive machine from a big box store? Yep, and it actually does work. There is a small sonar sensor on the bottom of the drone, allowing for worry free altitude holding capability whether indoors or out. There’s even a “Jump” button on the top right of the controller that can be employed to clear a fast approaching obstacle while cruising in Height Lock mode.
I was fully expecting the Speeder Bike drone to perform in a toy-like manner … anemic power and control response at best. I was wrong. This little gem from Spin Master and Air Hogs actually flies pretty well and is fun to pilot. It’s no 250 class 4S race rig, but it’ll get a pretty decent lean on and pick up the pace in a hurry.
The flight battery for the Speeder Bike is hardwired into the drone itself, so there’s no chance for quick battery swaps (unless you want to dissect such an attractive airframe and MacGyver something together as far as a battery plug). That also means you have less to carry with you when you head out for flights.
Keeping with the “less is more” theme, the radio for the Speeder Bike doubles as the charger for the flight pack in the drone. There is a little hatch in the lower right of the face, from with unfurls a small charge lead. The AA batteries take a beating when flying and charging for multiple cycles, but the drone includes a micro USB cord that can be plugged into the radio while charging, negating the drain on the AA cells.
>> It’s a freakin’ Star Wars Speeder Bike drone!!
>> Awesome “scale” detail
>> It flies surprisingly well
>> Transmitter doubles as the charger for the drone
>> Not a single replaceable part available … one and done
>> Outdoors only in little to no wind
As a child of the late 70’s and early 80’s I, like most other fellas the same age, am a die hard Star Wars fan. Of course, my first few times watching the first two movies left me with more questions than answers, being such a young lad, but when Return of the Jedi came out in 1983, I was about as pumped as an 8 year old could be to see how the rebels would defeat the evil Lord Vader and the Emperor. Of course, I was all smiles when the good guys won and was all giggles about those stupid, furry little creatures (don’t get me started), but the one thing I was most pumped about in the new movie was the Speeder Bike chase scene with Leia, Luke and the Imperial Scout Troopers. That scene alone sticks with me to this day and is probably the reason I love woods cruising with my FPV rigs so much. Now that I can fly a drone modeled ridiculously well after such an iconic vehicle, my only other wish is for a functioning light saber.
IN THE AIR
Charging the flight battery is as simple as stuffing six AA batteries into the radio and then plugging the charge cord into the belly of the drone. Oddly enough, there is no polarity to the charge lead or corresponding plug on the drone. The light on the radio will flash red while charging and turn solid green once complete. My initial (and subsequent) charge took 25-30 minutes … kind of long for a battery that can’t be swapped out, but oh well. I opted to use the USB cord, plugged into the 5v out on my Graupner Polaron to save some life in the AA batteries.
Once ready to rock, I grabbed the Speeder Bike and radio and headed outside. It’s certainly small enough for flying indoors, but I wanted a nice soft lawn to ditch onto if anything went awry. After turning the radio on, I switched the drone on and placed it flat on the grass. Once it was armed and ready to fly, I bumped the throttle to about half and the bike lurched skyward, assuming a level hover right in front of me. Two first impressions … Holy smokes this thing is quiet and holy smokes this thing is stable. I popped the throttle again to gain some altitude and nothing happened so I landed. WTF?!
Turns out, I had the radio switch on Height Lock, where the throttle is only used for takeoff and landing. Like they always said, haste makes waste and I rushed out the door without checking the radio over per the instructions. Either way, I had the Speeder Bike back up and ready for action after disabling the Height Lock function. A couple quick pirouettes and I began some forward flight. The drone will lean quiet a bit will full forward elevator, which looks awesome with the rider assuming the pursuit stance. Carving figure-8’s was not only effortless when coordinating rudder and aileron, but it felt like a much more expensive machine while doing it. I was also surprised with how quick the Speeder Bike can get when you really push it.
In Height Lock, the Speeder Bike keeps a consistent altitude thanks to the dual sonar sensors on the belly of the drone. Simply flip the switch to “locked” and mash the throttle to takeoff. The bike will assume a level hover four feet or so off the ground, awaiting your next command. You still have full control of the rudder, ailerons and elevator, but to vary the altitude of the Speeder Bike, you have to use the two up/down arrows beside the Height Lock switch. Also, while cruising in Height Lock mode, you can press the big orange Jump button above the right stick to pop the bike over an obstacle. Again, pretty damn snazzy for a 40 dollar drone.
I was suspect of the advertised 200 meter range of the radio system included with the Speeder Bike (who the frank can even see LOS that far?!), so I had to push the envelope a little. Heading off to the local ball field, I was able to fly from home plate, way out over the center field 400 foot marker and back, without a single glitch. On the way back, I opted for slalom approach rather than a straight line, for which I paid the price. At such great distance, I lost orientation with these old eyes and had to plop it down. I was worried that I might have done a number on any one of the plastic detail parts or Scout Trooper, but nothing was broken or even bent. The plastics used are mighty flexible and even if your happen to decapitate or explode your rider alla Princess Leia, you can always glue him back together with some foam safe CA glue.
Subsequent flights in the back yard proved to be the most fun. I strapped a Spektrum AIO camera/vTX unit to the front of the Speeder Bike and was blasting past trees just like a Jedi (I really need to get a few of the local club guys to get one and do the same so we can race FPV Endor style). Later in the afternoon, the wind picked up a bit and I quickly realized the limitations of the little Speeder Bike. With all the plastic fairings on the bike and the foam Scout Trooper sticking up like a mast, the drone does not like wind. It is extremely lightweight and even though the onboard accelerometers will keep things level, anything more than a 4-5 mph breeze was enough to take control of the drone from me and put it into the hands of Mother Nature. More than once, I had to ditch it in the neighbor’s yard because I wasn’t able to penetrate the mild wind.
THE FINAL WORD
All I gotta say is, for 40 bucks the Star Wars Imperial Aratech 74-Z Speeder Bike is a must have drone for any Star Wars fan, any drone fan or any Star Wars fan who flies drones. The thing looks plain awesome and the performance isn’t bad at all for something you can buy at Walmart. A couple sub micro AIO FPV units up the fun factor immensely and even though you can’t buy replacement parts, the flexible and resilient airframe will take some hits and keep doing what it’s supposed to. Spin Master also makes a battle set with infrared lasers that contains an X-Wing and Tie Fighter as well as a couple different Millennium Falcons. Check em all out to get your Star Wars Drone fix.
I’m sure you’ve all suffered the same fate as me at some point or another. You reach into that spare parts bin for a replacement camera, only to find out the lens is all scratched up from flopping around in the compartment it was in. Perhaps those replacement motors you grabbed to repair your race rig before the next heat have dirt in the magnets from rolling around loose, exposed to the elements. Maybe you grabbed your AP rig to grab some sweet video of a spectacular sunset, only to find out that your filters are all dirty from not being stored properly or that SD card is no where to be found in the case. All of the above are frustrating for sure, but there’s a simple and dirt cheap way to effectively store and transport all those tiny bits and pieces we are so direly dependent on. Custom cut foam parts trays made from material you probably have laying around the shop or man cave.
I had a few foam pieces left over from a recent charger acquisition (Dynamite Passport Ultra Duo) that came upon the chopping block during a heavy cleaning session. I was about to trash them, when it occurred to me that I was always worried about my FPV parts and pieces getting all bashed up in my transport cases. I snatched a few cams and vTX’s from said case, traced some rudimentary outlines with a sharpie and had some custom cut foam parts trays made within seconds for all my small, and vital, yet usually expensive components. The foam I used seems to be somewhere in the neighborhood of polyethylene or polyurethane, but it really doesn’t matter what you’re working with, so long as it’s available and flexible.
WHAT YOU’LL NEED
Leftover foam from a recent purchase
A hobby knife with a new blade
A cutting mat or some cardboard (To protect your work surface)
A marker/pen to trace your parts
Trace a rough outline of your parts on the foam
Cut said outline with knife, making sure to cut a bit inside the lines (Don’t worry, with flexible foam, the parts will fit and be nice and snug)
Cut entire piece into a block that is slightly larger than the bays in your case
Stuff part into foam and foam into case
Voila … safe and secure parts cases!!
WRAP IT UP … I’LL TAKE IT
Seriously though, I’m kinda pissed I didn’t think of this earlier … like, back in the 80’s when I was racing RC cars and couldn’t ever find what I needed because my parts box was an utter disaster. It literally costs nothing (in most cases), it takes mere seconds to do and the benefits of making such trays pays big dividends in the long run. If you’ve got loads of crucial, but delicate components floating around in your parts boxes, dig around and see if you’ve got any foam you can scavenge to protect your investments.
Until next Hot Tip Tuesday … Keep it real and keep it up.
Wanna win one of the most potent ARF racers on the market, that’s built and supported entirely in the USA??!! Well, you have less than one day to head on over to Thrust UAV’s site and register in any variety of ways. Just hit the link, click one of the icons just below the photo of the Riot and sign up. Entries are taken until midnight (CST) June 6, 2017, so what have you got to lose … aside from your next FPV race because you won’t be flying a Riot if you don’t sign up?
While RISE is a relatively new name in the RC game, drones are their one and only focus, so they’ve been honing their machines since the original release in the RXD 250. The Vusion House Racer is the cure-all for those trapped indoors due to weather, work, agoraphobia or any other suck malady. It’s a 125mm (actually closer to 120mm) brushed race machine packed with all the FPV essentials, including a flight controller with three independent flight modes. The coolest part is it’s a bit bigger than most other custom-tailored indoor rigs, but it’s also a heck of a lot faster than nearly any other brushed drone built for FPV action.
RISE serves up the Vusion House Racer in two different manners: an RTF version as reviewed here as well as an FPV ready version. The RTF is loaded with everything you need to get into the air and flying from the headset on the first pack. It includes the drone itself, a 2.4GHz 6-channel radio, flight battery, FPV monitor with DVR, headset for the monitor, a spare set of props and a screwdriver for the frame screws. The FPV ready version just includes the drone, battery and charger (both House Racers are SLT compatible, so you can use your favorite Tactic radio with them).
NEED TO KNOW:
TYPE: Mini RTF FPV Quad Bundle
FOR: FPV Drone pilots
WEIGHT: 2.4 oz
FLIGHT CONTROLLER: Integrated board
ESCS: Integrated board
MOTORS: 8mm brushed
PROPS: 2.3 in.
BATTERY: 650mAh 1S LiPo
FLIGHT TIME: 5-7 minutes
The RISE Vusion House Racer RTF Race Pack is an all-inclusive package. It not only includes the drone itself with camera and vTX as well as the radio, but also includes the Tactic FPV monitor that can be mounted to the radio or slipped into the headset and a spare set of props. Of course, the flight battery and charger are included as well as batteries for the radio, so you’ll need nothing other than your two thumbs to get into the air and flying FPV for real … for far less than 200 dollars!
Unlike most RTF FPV micro machines, the House Racer comes with the already tilted upwards somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 degrees or so. That means you can get this little quad ripping without worry of losing sight of that next gate.
The vTX on the House Racer is no slouch. It’s a full blown 25mW system with a full complement of 40 channels to choose from, so you can race your friends without worry of channel interference.
The reverse mounted motors (with the downward facing props) offer superior blade protection during crashes and bumps. Not only that, but the House Racer comes complete with a set of upper blade guards that you can add for extra protection.
Everything you need to fly FPV for less than the cost of a decent set of goggles. You’re not going to find more bang for your buck anywhere in the FPV drone world and to have the Hobbico name supporting you after the sale, you really can’t go wrong if this is your first foray into FPV. The reception on the headset and monitor isn’t HD quality, but it isn’t horrible either.
The House Racer comes with its own RISE controller, but it is also SLT compatible, which means you can use any higher end Tactic transmitter or the radio of your choice with an AnyLink adapter. I, for one, actually like the feel of the included radio, so I really have no need or desire to use my TTX850 as the stock radio feels good and the House Racer flies great with it.
The video monitor that can be mounted to the radio or placed within the headset for a fully immersive experience packs a full 40 channels to complement the vTX in the drone itself, but it also has a built-in DVR so you can record and upload all of your FPV exploits for all the world to see.
>> Complete FPV package without anything else needed
>> Great performance out of a tiny machine
>> 100% designed, built and supported by Hobbico
>> Lost model alarm beacon
>> Fast enough for outdoor adventures (see below)
>> Grass is a killer … especially with the inverted motors
>> A little too fast for some indoor venues
When I first saw the size of the House Racer, I knew I was in for a thrill ride. However, the connotation of the name itself had instilled in me expectations of something much slower and smaller. The fact of the matter is, the House Racer is bigger than most indoor machines and is also quite a bit faster than most other brushed rigs, but that’s all good as far as I’m concerned as such speed and agility allow this model to venture outdoors as well. A word of advice though, keep it in Mode 1 if you have anything other than a chateau with long, wide open expanses for a domicile … at least for the first flight or two.
IN THE AIR
As I mentioned before, starting off slow with the House Racer is the key to success if your living quarters are fairly humble size-wise. My 900 square foot cape has large rooms, but no hallways or openly adjoining rooms to speak of, but my pride had me thinking “bah, I’m an experienced pilot. I don’t need no stinking Mode 1!” Well, needless to say, my first flight lasted exactly four seconds before the humbling walk of shame with me muttering about how darn fast the House Racer was. I was so used to flying my Tiny Whoop and Nano QX at full tilt through my kitchen, into the dining room and then back out to the living room again that I employed the same throttle burying technique with the House Racer, to no advantage.
The House Racer is fast for sure, so I flipped back into Mode 1 and started things a little more cautiously through my makeshift race course. There are lots of hard 90 degree turns so I crept through the first lap and was glad I did as the stock monitor setup fed me quite a bit of interference once a couple walls and rooms were between it and the drone. A quick repositioning into the center of my course allowed for decent image transmission throughout the full run of the course.
Mode 1 – Bank angle limit of 30 degrees: Docile on the cyclic controls, but can also get the House Racer scootin’ pretty darn fast. In this mode you have full 6-axis gyro and accelerometer assistance, giving you easy flight with auto-leveling. My first few batteries in my house were flown in this mode until I got a little more familiar with the handling characteristics.
Mode 2 – Bank angle limit of 45 degrees: A little snappier on the elevator and aileron channels, but noticeably faster in a flat line. Now, the angle limiters are increased so you can pitch the House Racer further forward and open the big motors up for some blistering runs. Once I got familiar with my race course setup, I was all about Mode 2 while cruising in my house.
Mode 3 – No bank angle limit: For you experience FPV racers and flyers out there, this is your Rate Mode. There is only the 3-axis gyro feeding stabilization to the House Racer in this mode, but no self-leveling from the accelerometers. Pitch the drone forward and it will stay in that orientation until commanded otherwise. My house was way too small for Mode 3, but I did open it up and use it once outdoors. Other folks with larger indoor areas and/or better thumbs than I will surely be able to utilize this mode for indoor flying.
Auto Flips – Like many other RTF drones, the House Racer can do auto-flips with the push of a button. The House Racer does it as well in Flight Mode 2, but I was a little perplexed when after reading the instructions that outline the procedure contradicted what I was actually seeing with my own eyes. The manual explains that you need to push and hold the “Flip” button on the left side of the radio, but that button is actually labeled “Picture” (The Vusion House Racer RTF uses the same radio as the Vusion Extreme Racer). Once Hobbico support cleared that up, I was flipping like a pro, though the little House Racer does lose a bit of altitude when performing such aerobatics, so just keep a little distance between it and the ground when flipping.
Crashing: The House Racer is about as durable as any other mini/micro lightweight FPV machine. However, even with the prop guards added, there is still a good potential for blade strikes. After a few bumps with a makeshift gate (a café table’s legs) the House Racer would always end up on its lid. Once we employed a little rudder to allow the prop guards to take the brunt of the blow in such scenarios, the model would most often stay upright and aloft. The bottom line is, I crashed a lot and I crashed hard, but the House Racer showed no ill effects aside from a bent landing foot or two that were promptly rectified with a little elbow grease.
Race Gates: Unless you live in a cave, chances are you’ve seen at least some of the cool videos of folks flying in their homes with all sorts of gates borne from their own imagination (or 3D printers). RISE and Hobbico have you covered though, with their Race Gate system for the House Racer. For $40 you get two hoop gates, one logoed bridge gate and a turn flag. They also sell LED lit versions as well as arch gates and elevated hoops. I turned to Amazon.com for some LED ropes on the cheap and setup my own course using the Race Gate System and a bit of ingenuity (be sure to check back for a separate feature on how/where to get the setup I built).
I got to fly my House Racer, in the house, as well as a few other locations. I used my side yard at night, lit with my LED gates, which was awesome … especially when I could use the lost model beacon to find my downed machine in the dark … until I got close enough to see the red LED on the drone (just watch out when flying over grass at night as it’ll grab the House Racer with haste. I also got to fly quite a few packs over the turf track at The Hobby Hangout in New Milford, CT, abusing their drone race track for all the House Racer was worth. I must say, the model really excels in larger areas and is perfectly at home outdoors with little to no wind.
THE FINAL WORD
I think it’s safe to say that I’ve been fairly impressed with just about every release from RISE. From the RXD 250 up through the Vusion Race Pack, the House Racer is no different. It allows would-be FPV pilots to get everything they need to jump into the pilot’s seat for $179.99 and it surely doesn’t skimp on performance for those with more seasoned thumbs. Best of all, it’s distributed by Hobbico and that comes with a huge piece of mind in the form of support after the sale. Oh, and one other thing. Just because it’s called the House Racer, you can still buy one of these awesome little rigs if you live in a condo, apartment, your mom’s basement or a cave (assuming said cave has a USB outlet to charge the battery). Be sure to check back in for our FPV video.